The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, PACAC, Itse Sagay says there is no law preventing law enforcement agents from arresting judges presumed to be corrupt.He however, condemned the nation’ senior lawyers and Nigeria Bar Association NBA for calling for the jugular of the DSS over the judges’ arrest. He said they should be ashamed of themselves for being the cause of the judges’ trouble in the hands of the law enforcement agents.
”It sounds very ill and bad in their mouth. They are the ones who carry billions of naira to these poor judges. They are the ones who corrupt them. The senior ones among the lawyers”, said Sagay
He noted with dismay that some senior lawyer in the country were fond of facilitating bribes between judges and litigants.
Sagay was reacting to the raid of residences of judges and subsequent arrest by the Department of State Services, DSS, over the weekend. DSS had last weekend arrested some judges across the country over allegation of bribery, but they were later released . But the Professor of Law in a statement he issued Tuesday noted that the law does not prescribe immunity for the judiciary.
Noting that the “expanding epidemic of judicial corruption” has seriously affected the invincibility that judges once possessed in the country, the legal luminary maintained that the once-revered judiciary has degenerated into an institution where CASH dictates justice.” According to Sagay,“The searches of the premises of judges by the DSS is a sad development in our legal history brought about by inevitable circumstances.
“Although no judge had ever been subjected to search of premises and arrest, from the colonial period until recently, this was not because there was any law protecting Judges’ immunity against arrest and criminal prosecution. Rather, it was based on a convention arising from the need to respect the dignity and sanctity of the Judiciary.
“The explosive and expanding epidemic of judicial corruption, which has taken an alarming character since the 2007 elections, has totally overturned the culture of respect for the judiciary and brought the revered institution into disrepute and ignominy.
“The epic and corrosive nature of the problem has made the system expressly laid down forDEALING with judicial indiscipline, that is, the NJC system, totally ineffective. The level of moral depravity and the enormous number of culprits engaged in aggressive or rampaging corruption was just too much for the orthodox system of discipline to deal with.
“The amount of rawCASH recovered in the process of the DSS searches is mind boggling. We, therefore, have a situation in which a deadly disease was threatening the very existence of democracy and the Rule of Law.
“The question must be: do we take drastic and unprecedented steps to sanitise the judiciary and save the institution from those who are prepared to drag it and our democracy down for filthy lucre? Or do we twiddle our fingers in despair and let the shameful erosion and retrogression of a once famous and revered institution to go on?
“This is a country that once had one of the greatest judiciaries in the world. It now seems unbelievable that our judicial benches were once graced by legendary figures, like J.I.C. Taylor, Louis Mbanefo, Joseph Adefarasin, Adetokunbo Ademola, Akinola Aguda, Anthony Aniagolu, Kayode Eso, Mohammed Bello, Chukwuweike Idigbe, Andrews Otutu Obaseki, Augustine Nnamani, Adolphos Karibi-Whyte and Chukwudifu Oputa. Between 1980 and 1990, we had an outstanding group of Jurists in the Supreme Court who created the golden age of the judiciary.
“What has happened between that dreamlike era and now is a rapid descent into the world of mammon, where cash dictates justice. With that degeneration of our judicial standards, our judicial ‘gods’ have descended from mount Olympus and joined the ranks of ordinary men and thus are suffering the fate of ordinary men.”